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Other Names: Alfazema (Portuguese); English lavender; espígol (Catalan); French lavender; khuzaama or lafand (Arabic); lavanda (Italian, Spanish); lavande (French); levanta (Greek); rabenda (Japanese); spike lavender.

General Description: Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia_) is a highly aromatic plant with a floral yet pinelike aroma that is characteristic of the French Provençal kitchen. This type of lavender, commonly called English lavender, has bluish green leaves and blue-tinted, rather than purple, blossoms. Lavender originated in the western Mediterranean and is grown commercially for lavender oil in France, Hungary, and Bulgaria. It is a main ingredient in herbes de Provence, the special resinous dried herb seasoning used extensively in Provençal cuisine. Use lavender with care and in small quantities because its flavor quickly becomes overbearing. It’s especially suited to lamb and goat and makes a delicious flavoring for ice cream. It marries well with honey, especially lavender blossom honey, which is golden with an extremely smooth, almost buttery, texture. Several other species of lavender are found elsewhere in the Mediterranean. Spike lavender (L. latifolia_) has long leaves and violet blossoms. French (or Spanish) lavender (L. stoechas) has dark purple flowers and narrow, long, grayish green leaves. Both buds and leaves are used in the kitchen.

Season: Lavender blooms in summer and may be found in farmers’ markets and herb markets.

Serving Suggestions: Use Lavender Sugar for sweetening lemonade, tea, iced tea, or plain baked goods such as shortbread, sponge cake, or pound cake. Add lavender leaves, petals, and flowering tips in small amounts to salads, vinaigrettes, hearty soups, and lamb stews. Add a sprig of lavender to herbal vinegar, honey, and fruit jellies.

Food Affinities: Apple jelly, butter, cream, custard, dark chocolate, goat, goat cheese, honey, lamb, sugar, tea, vinegar.

from Quirk Books: